Microsoft has begun to add some messages from Twitter to results from the Bing search engine. It comes as Microsoft celebrates a clear – though minute – growth in Bing’s usage.
While Twitter’s audience is still relatively small in comparison to the web as a whole, it’s become a useful way to find information which wouldn’t necessarily appear on web pages. For example, one airline looks for references to itself in Twitter posts to keep on top of possible customer service problems before people get to the point of making formal complaints. It’s also a handy tool for “Is it just me?” situations such as when there are problems with a service such as Gmail.
Until now, the major search engines have struggled to cover Twitter because the service is constantly updated. This means firms such as Google face a dilemma because by the time their systems could properly index and filter messages from the site, they’d be comparatively out of date.
At the moment the only way to search through posts is through Twitter itself or through dedicated search tools, which take advantage of the fact Twitter makes its system relatively freely accessible to outside developers. Most of these are simple searches which simply match the query term with little regard to context or importance.
That’s about to change with Microsoft announcing it will allow real-time searching of some Twitter posts. For now it will only cover tweets by a few thousand leading users, chosen by a combination of how often they post messages and how many people regularly read their tweets. That limit is probably a way of reducing the amount of data which must be indexed, giving a balance between timeliness and quality of results.
The announcement follows news that after a full month of operation, Bing is clearly growing in popularity. Weekly figures from traffic analysts Statcounter show that after a fall in usage in the second week (once fewer people were trying it as a novelty), Bing’s audience began rising towards the end of the month.
Across the entirety of June, Bing had a US market share of 8.23 per cent. That’s up from 7.86 per cent in May, a combined total of the MSN and Live Search tools. And while Google probably won’t be losing any sleep, Bing has won over some new customers: Google’s figures dropped from 79.07 per cent in May to 78.48 per cent in June.
The news isn’t so good for Microsoft across the rest of the world: Bing’s global share in the same report was just 3.36. That may be because people see Google as doing a better job of customizing its services for local markets, while some of Bing’s headline features don’t yet work in all countries.